Another Adventure in a Different ShapeChristchurch, Spring 2012

At the end of almost every week here, there has been a fully packed bag sitting by my door, patiently waiting to be forcefully crammed into some tiny rental car or crowded bus. This week is no exception, except for the fact that this time, my fully packed bag and I will not be returning.

In the infamous words of Semisonic, every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end. Its cliché, but it’s true. As we get older, these transitions between endings and beginnings seem to get more frequent, and while it doesn’t necessarily get easier, you at least get more familiar with the pattern: the happiness of the last days dedicated to spending time with meaningful people, the initial panic of boarding a plane or placing your foot on the gas peddle, the eventual acceptance as you watch miles pass between you and whatever part of your life you just experienced, the caffeinated planning of the necessary steps for the next adventure, and the handful of nights of tossing and turning in your childhood bedroom before the next departure- marveling at how all the progress and growth you thought you had achieved in the most recent chapter of your life immediately disintegrates in the presence of purple walls, indie rock band posters from high school, and the reinstatement of embarrassing family nicknames that you would be mortified if your friends knew about.

So, here we go again. Is there sadness? Of course- I’m parting with some amazing friends, leaving a few special people behind here, and saying goodbye to a life of having my breath taken away every weekend (not to mention, I’ll get weird looks when I say things like “sweet as,” “keen,” and “good fun mate”). On one of our last weekend trips we returned to Queenstown (one of my favorite mini-cities on the South Island). Characteristically, I woke up early and left our stuffy hostel room for a sunrise walk through town and around the lake, which is surrounded by a stunning stretch of the exposed rock faces of the Southern Alps. But it the midst of this beauty and the comfort of a place where I had been before, I remember thinking- these mountains aren’t mine, none of this will ever be mine.

I’ve been a traveler for five months now; it’s time, at least for a little, to spend my days in a place that is home.

As this comes to a close, there are so many people to acknowledge. As corny as it sounds, I wouldn’t have had this opportunity without the undying support of my parents. Similarly, I have incredible friends who were instrumental in helping me to get here when it seemed overwhelming, and who have stuck with me this whole time despite the distance. And of course, there are the irreplaceable people here who shared the dreadfully long, crammed car rides every weekend, who have trudged with me through muddy trails and over slippery rocks and across the finish line of the Christchurch half marathon, who have sang and laughed loudly when I needed to smile, and who have observed the still and silence of this country when it spoke louder than anything we could have said. You know who you are, thank you to each and every one of you, really.

I can’t write the second-to-last post without acknowledging how extraordinary IES has been throughout this entire experience. From organizing the logistics before we got here to facilitating great fieldtrips and orientations as well as preparing us for transition back to life in the states, they have truly been there every step of the way. But most importantly, I think all of us who were here this spring would agree that our experience would have been very different in the absence of the perpetual energy and enthusiasm of the IES staff here in Christchurch: Eunice and Frank. Both of these individuals went above and beyond their required duties, immediately becoming more like friends and family than people who were being paid to run a program. Sincerely, thank you to both of you.

I don’t know that you could consider this a typical video blog, but the final compilation video has been in the works for weeks now and for sharing purposes I am posting it through IES’s channel (anyone who is in it and would like a hard copy, let me know and we’ll make it happen). It was a challenge to narrow three hours of footage down to seven minutes, but hopefully this will be a good memory of some of our experiences. We truly had heaven under our feet for the past five months, just as much in the obvious places as in the temporarily broken streets of this resilient city. I tried to show a little of both, I hope you enjoy it.

More reflections and thoughts on this experience will be shared in the re-entry blog but until then, safe travels to everyone returning home. Enjoy your families, your friends, and the sights and sounds that made you who you are. I know I’m looking forward to it. Kia Ora New Zealand, you’ve been nothing short of amazing. Next post will be from the states!


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